Garnie Cowie – a winner in more ways than one

By Duane Ranger

Southland breeder, Garnie Cowie, has been around horses for most of his 85 years on earth, but has never bred two winners from the same mare in two countries – and within two days of each other.

Roger, Aileen, Derek, Garnie and Megan

That’s exactly what happened at Invercargill and Perth on April 23 and 25, when Cowie’s two-win daughter of Holmes Hanover and Stampezy (Stampede) – Holmezy – did the business on the two tracks which are 4,702km from each other.

The 20-year-old bay mare’s fifth and sixth foals (of nine) scored one-and-three-quarter length and 15.3 metre victories respectively.

Three-year-old Sportswriter gelding, the Des Baynes trained, and Nathan Williamson driven, Storyteller, won the second race at Ascot Park – a $12,000 maiden event, as the $3 favourite.

He is owned by Cowie, his brother Jack and sons Derek and Roger. Jack, who is 86, is also listed as the co-breeder.

Then two days later the Greg & Skye Bond trained and Deni Roberts driven Sista Sammy, opened up as the $1.01 favourite in race two, and then virtually won in her sleep.

Sista Sammy, a 5-year-old Lincoln Royal mare,  was only exported to Australia on November 10, and has since won both of her Gloucester Park starts for the Bonds, who also own her.

“She’s been a grand old broodmare, who dates back to the foundation mare from the family, the unraced 1983 mare Vite Argent (Son Of Afella – Ne Vente (Armbro Hurricane).

“Holmezy would be the best horse I’ve bred in New Zealand because she was a lovely pacer and then a great producer. Her mother Stampezy (1988 Stampede – VIte Argent) only raced twice, but potentially I think she was even better than Holmezy, but we never got to see the best of her.

“Holmezy was the third of nine foals left by Stampezy and by far the best. She won seven races and more than $80,000, including a nice second in the Southland Oaks (2006),” Cowie said.

However abroad, Cowie said Holmezy’s third foal, Alfie Romeo, later renamed Our Alfie Romeo in Australia would be the best horse he has bred overall.

“She won 21 races over there including two Group Twos and a Group Three. She’s  the best so far. She has earned a lot of money ($325,430),” Cowie said.

But all those accomplishments above pale in comparison to what Cowie has achieved in his personal life of late.

The Orepuki-based pensioner has suffered from lung cancer and then smashed it out of the ball-park.

“I’m one of the fortunate ones, who has had three years of treatment and beat cancer. I never knew I had a problem until I started getting indigestion. I went to Invercargill Hospital (2020) and the cancer was diagnosed there.

“Sadly, my wife Aileen has dementia from Parkinson’s Disease, and I’ve also had to try and be there for her as well. It’s not been easy but beating cancer and breeding winners certainly lift your spirits,” Cowie said.

“And speaking of spirits the odd whisky or two has helped as well,” he joked.

A building contractor and farmer by trade, Cowie lost his parents when he was one (Dad) and five (Mum). He said he was raised by his Aunty, who gave him sound advice he carries out to this very day.

“No matter what comes your way make sure you never forget your humour. Laughter is the best medicine. If you can’t laugh, then you don’t have much do you?”

Cowie was certainly laughing when Storyteller’ notched up his first win in two starts. He also ran second ten days earlier at Winton on April 13.

“Des and Nathan need to be praised for the way they have presented and raced this horse. They have been patient with him, and we all know that both men are fine horsemen in their own right.

“Des has been our trainer for some time and has a wealth of knowledge, which has been absolutely invaluable to us.

“Nathan drove the horse brilliantly. They sat near last and then got a drag into the race by the stablemate (Repetitive). He seemed to do it easy,” Baynes said.

Cowie said Holmezy left seven foals between 2010 and 2020 and then missed for a couple of years before leaving a Tall Dark Stranger weanling filly on November 30. He said that Holmezy was now in foal to Art Major after being served by him in late January.

“Thanks to Storyteller’s triumph every foal to the races that Holmezy has left has now won races,” Cowie said.

Garnie’s grandsons – who the some of the horses have been named after – from left to right: Alfie, Sam, Garnie, Raff and Jackson.

They are the 2010 two-win mare, Holm Three; the 2012 three-win Elsu gelding, Raffy Roo; the 2014 Washington VC mare, Alfie Romeo. Then came Sista Sammy (2017) and a Storyteller (2019).

The wins above, were all recorded in New Zealand. Holm Three also won 15 races in Australia ($113,192), and placed in two Listed races there.

Cowie then explained how he got into the Storyteller breed.

“I used to have a farm next to Doug and George Smith in Winton, who bred Ne Vente (1973 Armbro Hurricane – Trouville – Van Hanover mare). She who was the mother of Vite Argent (1983 Son Of Afella mare), and grand-dam of Holmezy.

“I remember when we started breeding from VIte Argent, someone told me the name in French meant ‘Quick Money’. I got the mare sadly when Doug died, and George followed shortly after.

“I haven’t had quick money, but the sport is in my blood and it’s a passion. I’ve had a lot of enjoyment over the years and I’m happy to say that I’m still breeding from Holmezy’s family.

“After these recent winners we also have high hopes for our 2-year-old American Ideal unraced colt, On The Wing, and both the Tall Dark Stranger weanling,  and the Art Major foal in Holmezy’s tummy,” Cowie said.

“Whatever happens you just have to keep laughing and enjoy life,” he added.